Injunction stopping execution of North Iowa mass murderer Dustin Honken is lifted

Dustin Honken/KIMT file photo

Opens door to first federal executions in over 15 years. Supreme Court likely to ultimately decide.

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 8:07 PM
Updated: Apr 7, 2020 8:08 PM

WASHINGTON, DC – A federal appeals court has lifted the injunction that put a stop to the execution of Dustin Honken.

A U.S. District Court judge halted Honken’s and several other federal executions in November 2019, saying the death row inmates were likely to win their legal challenge. On Tuesday by a 2-1 vote, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed that ruling and again opened the door for the first federal executions in over 15 years.

One of those death penalties is for Honken, a Britt, Iowa drug kingpin convicted of murdering five people in 1993 as part of a scheme to silence two formers dealers turned informants. Honken was found guilty in 2004 of killing Lori Ann Duncan, her daughters Kandace and Amber Duncan, Gregory Nicholson and Terry DeGeus. The two children were kidnapped from Mason City.

Their bodies were found buried in a wooded area in 2003 near where the current Cerro Gordo County Law Enforcement Center sits. DeGeus and Nicholson were two of Honken’s former methamphetamine dealers who agreed to cooperate with agents investigating Honken’s multistate operation.

After the Appeals Court ruling, this case will go back to the District Court judge and could end up being ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is whether the federal government has the power to set a uniform process for death by lethal injection of if the states’ have the power to decide that process for themselves.

To read the Appeals Court ruling, click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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